Friday, August 13, 2004

Blackout!

It was one year ago tomorrow that Ontario and much of the Northeastern US were plunged into darkness at 4:11 pm. 50 million people were without power for up to a week afterwards and the already beleaguered city of Toronto took another hit in the “black summer” of 2003.

I just finished reading Souvenir of Canada 2 by Douglas Coupland (my favourite author) in which he presents the following essay contending that the rest of Canada is feeling somewhat more benevolent towards Toronto the these days. Have a read then I’d like to hear comments from those in the West who have had issues with the “center of the universe” and if that has softened as Coupland suggests.

"Toronto was once the city that Canadians loved to hate. Why? Simple. One day, as happened with Microsoft, the numbers came in, and Toronto was suddenly the biggest dog on the block. I remember the year it happened, sometime in the mid-1970's, when Toronto's population eclipsed that of Montreal. I was with my uncle and we were driving south from the Gatineau Mountains into Toronto. Somewhere on the 401, we saw the highway sign with the new population numbers - white letters on green. It felt like a real moment, and it was.

Most of the nation's commerce and culture is regulated and multiplied within Toronto's grid. In a book, I once described Toronto as "the Yellow Pages sprung to life in three dimensions, peppered with trees and veined with ice water," and I think that definition still, to some degree, sticks - in a good way. When you factor in its suburbs and what social scientists call its "conurbanation," Toronto is a massive economy unto itself, larger than that of most of the world's nations. You simply can’t deny its power. Human hearts are jealous; Toronto was an easy target, up until 2003.

In 2003, Toronto was blindsided by the SARA virus, a sci-fi plague both from hell and the distant and awful future. A few months later, after limping through the wreckage of its economy, the city melted down during a catastrophic power failure. The year 2003 was an awful time for its citizens, and for the first time in its history, the hearts of Canadians went out to Torontonians and have largely stayed with them since then. Toronto has been humanized and, because of its vulnerability, at long last has won a form of affection."


P.S. Take a look below at the groovy signature I got when I met Doug on his book tour for Hey Nostradamus!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Posted by Roger...

I took a look at your website and it's really good. Kind of like a form letter to the world, but I get a good look in it at what you've been thinking about.

About Toronto, I think my attitudes softened when I got to know real people from Toronto. I've also come to realize that people everywhere get a little myopic about their community from time to time. It's good to take an interest in what is going on right around you, and the more that is going on the bigger share of your attention it is going to take up. Here in Manitoba, the rural towns accuse people in Winnipeg of having perimeteritis, or not being aware that anything exists beyond the perimeter highway.

Being from a small Saskatchewan town gives me another perspective on it. In a small town everyone is treated as equal, regardless of anything that might give them status. There's just no room for those kind of divisions in a small community. I was in my 20's before I realized that there are actually people who would look down on me for being from a smaller place than they are. I don't let that attitude hurt my self esteem. And I've encountered it from a few people in every city I've visited or lived in. Which leads me to mention Rider Pride. There are a lot of people who have left Saskatchewan, and cheering for the Roughriders in the face of the people in their adopted city is just a way of showing pride in where we are from.

James said...

Wha' Happen? It's like there's a blogging blackout or something! Get your blogging butt back in gear, Saunders. Are you trapped under something heavy?